Reputations Are Easily Formed And Hard To Shake

A client has been treating their community as a noticeboard for months and now wants members to have engaging discussions with one another. The problem is members still see this as a place to dump information.

An acquaintance has a group of superusers who feel they’re being ignored and not listened to. This came during a period where they were ignored and not listened to. Since then, she’s hosted weekly calls where they can drop in, ask questions, and more. She’s taken time to engage with each of them individually and understand that need. Yet in her latest survey, the number of superusers who feel they are being listened to has barely budged.

Reddit has probably done as much as anyone over the past few years to rid itself of hate, discrimination, and the nasties of the web. But the public perception of Reddit is still largely a few years out of date. Facebook faces the same challenge with privacy today.

This isn’t new information. The incredible Hans Rosling used to point out how our impressions of many countries in the developing world were often 40 to 50 YEARS out of date.

Two important lessons here.

First, you have to be VERY careful in forming the right reputation from the beginning. Don’t leave this to chance. The very concept of the community has to be to foster a very specific kind of motivation. The messaging and story your community tells has to be sharp (especially to your best members). If you don’t create a story for your members, they will create their own.

Second, if you’re trying to change a perception, you have to go way over the top to change it. You can’t fiddle around the edges, make a few improvements, and hope things change. You have to begin with acknowledging and admitting the problem. Explain the thing you want to change, and solicit the contributions of members to change it.

Of course, then you have to live and breathe that story.

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